GitHub private repositories: A blessing or a curse?

Yesterday Github announced that a free subscription now includes unlimited private repositories. It’s accepted with great applause in the developers community, but is it really such great news?

GitHub announced new upgrades on Twitter, including unlimited private repositories for GitHub Free users.

Some numbers about GitHub in 2018

According to The State of the Octoverse, GitHub has:

  • 31M+ active developers;
  • 2.1M+ active organizations;
  • 96M+ repositories (both public and private);
  • 200M+ pull requests created.


GitHub is the largest community of developers in the world. Most (new) users come from the USA (more than 80%), but in the past year increasing numbers are coming from China, India and the U.K. The role that the company plays in the global collaboration between developers is therefore increasing continuously. The biggest drivers of this success are the open repositories, because every user is capable of contributing. Due to the fact that it’s now possible for GitHub Free users to create unlimited private repositories, the number of open repositories will decrease and this will have adverse effects on the worldwide collaboration between developers.


1.1M+ Students, which are verified through the Student Developer Pack application, have learned to code via GitHub. 600K+ are active and the number is still growing. In 2018 the number grew by 18 percent. Besides that 20K+ teachers are using GitHub on a regular basis in their day-to-day jobs. They implement real-world developer workflows and together created more than 200K assignments and more than 18K schools (from high schools, universities, coding bootcamps and beyond) are using Github. They use GitHub and GitHub Classroom to host courses, distribute assignments, and get insight into student progress. And they often end up teaching well beyond their campuses.

A survey amongst the GitHub Education Community showed that 48% of students said using GitHub in the classroom helped make them feel like they belonged in the software development field. 31% of surveyed students said using GitHub made them feel “very prepared” for a future internship or career in software development.

When surveying students who didn’t use GitHub in their classrooms, only 14% said they felt this way.

Here too, the effects will be clearly visible. The strength of open repositories is that users have the ability to learn from other developers, teachers and institutes as well as to help other users to develop themselves. With the arrival of private repositories, the number of open repositories will decrease, making it more difficult to connect developers. The threshold is greatly increased to share knowledge and learn from each other. It is quite possible that in the future it will be impossible to learn from each other in a free, open way.

In conclusion

GitHub is all about collaboration, sharing knowledge and learning from each other, but with the advent of unlimited private repositories for GitHub Free users this concept is in danger. With an increase in private repositories, the number of open source projects / repositories will decrease and cooperation between developers worldwide will be made more difficult.

This will also have a major impact on the way of sharing knowledge and learning from each other. Open repositories have been the way this is done for years, but an increase in private repositories will make this process difficult or impossible.

The future will tell us whether it actually goes this way and this article is mainly intended to start the discussion and ask us if going private is the way to go.

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